Dressing Your Classroom for Success

The idea of dressing for success has been around for forty years ever since John T. Molloy wrote his best-selling book.

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However, the idea of dressing our classroom for success is something that too often gets overlooked for the more “practical” elements of education.   There are multiple factors behind our reluctance to consider dressing our classrooms.

  1. Facility limitations – Perhaps we share space with a Sunday School class or our classroom is located in a modular building.
  2. Financial limitations – Most teachers and schools are on a tight budget.  It’s hard to justify spending money on décor when other things seem more important.
  3. Idea limitations – Maybe we have no idea what the word “décor” means!

Well, never fear!  You don’t have to have a beautiful facility or unlimited budget to dress your classroom for success.  And you definitely don’t have to be a style maven (or I’d be out of the game)!

The most effectively-designed classrooms represent the teacher, students, and school through the use of symbols.  They engage students and create a pleasurable atmosphere for the students to grow.

To create a symbolically significant classroom, consider some of the following ideas:

  1. Choose a symbol that presents something about yourself:  a monument, photograph, flower, hobby, book, etc. (My classroom is full of Eiffel Towers and fleur de lis.  They are pretty and regal-looking.  Also, we study European history, so they reflect a portion of our history studies.)
  2. Share a bit of yourself with your students by sharing with them the significance of your symbol.  They’ll think of you when they see that object in the future and connect it to memories of your classroom. (One of my former students recently told me, “I saw a picture of the Eiffel Tower and remembered what great fun we had in sixth grade!)”
  3. Start small.  Start out with only one or two prominently placed objects.  Add things in slowly as you can pick things up at yard sales or thrift stores.  You may also find that your students begin to bless you with themed items rather than the typical coffee mug or candle.  (My classroom décor has grown as my students have “caught” my love for Paris.  Their gifts are meaningful and allow them to have ownership in the classroom.)
  4. Add texture and color intentionally.  Classrooms can easily become over-stimulating with too many colorful posters on the wall.  Avoid using too many colors.  Choose a color-scheme that goes with your symbol.  Add some soft textures – pillows, soft chairs, etc. (For example, I made black curtains for my Eiffel Tower themed room.  I add colors like dark reds, greens, and browns in pillows, a wing-back chair found at a thrift store, and the letters used on the wall and bulletin boards).
  5. Keep it simple.  Not every place on the wall needs to have something on it.  Blank space is good.  (Incorporate your symbol in other ways like stickers on graded papers, thank you notes, etc.)

Designing our classrooms is an important part of our mission to convey truth, goodness, and beauty to our students.

What do you do to dress your classroom for success?  

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Marty Reed teaches at Veritas School, a classical Christian school in Richmond, Virginia. Her twenty years of teaching, coupled with her duties as pastor's wife and mother of two, provide her with excellent insights to share with FOCUS readers.